At the start of the year (now nearly three months ago) I made a pledge that 2019 was going to be the year of focus.
In 2018 I felt I was starting a lot of new projects, and enjoying working on a lot of different things, but not seeing many of them to completion. In many ways, I felt I was making a little bit of progress in a lot of directions, as opposed to focusing my efforts on one or two projects.
As such, I decided that I would focus on my creative writing and completing my masters’ dissertation.
Now, nearly three months on, I feel like that’s been a good decision. It’s been productive, the dissertation is almost ready for submission and I have just finished my final edits on the novel. They will be published and submitted in the next few weeks!
However, that focus has come at a cost. For all the time I’ve spent on something, I haven’t been doing something else. For example, this blog hasn’t been updated in a while – although I’ve had ideas for posts I just haven’t written them. I’ve not been engaging on Twitter and other social media as much as I usually do. And I’ve not been able to share the teaching resources I wanted to at the start of this year. These are things that I’ll start doing more of again soon once those milestones are completed though.
But the realization for me is that when I decide to do something, the decision I’m really making is to drop everything else. I’m not really deciding what I will do, but deciding what I won’t do.
This made me think about my work as a teacher. I often wish students would be more focused on my subject. I speak to them knowing they would make loads of progress if only they would spend a bit of time wholly focused on the content or skill we’re working on. But of course, this prioritization is a privilege they may not have. They have numerous subjects they have to take, which are all vying for their time and focus – I am just one of a dozen.
And that’s just in school. After school, they have their friends, family, and other interests – those vital interests that make childhood so rich and enjoyable.
I’m not talking here about students messing around in lessons. Obviously, if they’re focusing on a conversation about computer games over what I’m working to teach them, then that’s not making a decision, that’s just being distracted.
I’m talking about those students who I know work hard. Those who I wish had the freedom to make the sort of focused decisions I have reaped the benefits from in the last few months.
I think I’ll try to be a little bit more patient, knowing that with each bit of effort and focus I’m pulling from them, something elsewhere is being dropped and forgotten.
Do you feel sometimes you push your students too hard?
Do your students focus well?